In the previous issue of Justice League of America, the good guys from the JLA, Justice League, and Justice League Dark were trapped inside of a strange prison and yet Martian Manhunter and Stargirl were inexplicably capable of walking about freely. Issue #8 focused primarily on Martian Manhunter as he was given a tour of the various tortures that had befallen his teammates while Stargirl did very little throughout the comic. That is until the final page revealed that she had found a way out of the prison on her own.

Naturally, like many readers, I assumed we would shift focus to Stargirl in this issue as she explored the world outside of the prison. Along the way we would get answers regarding how the prison operates and Stargirl could figure out how to set her companions loose from the chains they are not even aware they are bound by. But that didn’t happen. Writer Matt Kindt throws a curve ball with this one and we begin with more of J’onn’s walkabout through the prison and Stargirl actually returns to the jail herself and goes on a tour of her own. However, rather than show us what sort of twisted Tower of Babel-esque torments are being dealt to heroes that went unseen in the previous issue, Stargirl simply visits Flash, Wonder Woman, and Shazam again, which was admittedly disappointing. It’s great that we’re getting more Stargirl, but a retread of elements from the last comic isn’t exactly what I wanted to see. The shock of the prison has worn off by now and Martian Manhunter’s own quest to wake his comrades from their illusion is too derivative of the Justice League: The Animated Series episode titled “Only a Dream.”

Despite those problems though, I actually enjoyed this issue and the thing that saved it was the charm of Stargirl, who has her origin briefly retold (well, told for the first time in the New 52 continuity). She’s such a likeable character and her enthusiasm brings some much needed fun to the tremendously gloomy situation. And in those pages where we’re not repeating the same beats from issue #8 we also distance ourselves from that Doctor Destiny episode of the animated series I mentioned earlier just enough to make things feel fresher than the previous installment. Unfortunately, the bit that’s new here all flies by too quickly and just as things reach their most exciting point and J’onn and Stargirl’s stories merge to form something that pushes the plot forward in a more unpredictable direction the comic ends. It’s still fun in those moments, but I think that this issue and the last could have been paced better, as I recall the last issue came off as quite repetitive.  There’s a good story here, it’s just drawn out and too reminiscent of something else I’ve seen before.

Unlike the last issue, this installment is not illustrated by Doug Mahnke, but is instead drawn by Tom Derenick with inks by Tom Nguyen and Allen Martinez. I think that Derenick maintained the look and tone of what Mahnke established in the previous issue almost exactly. I could hardly tell the difference and I think it will flow quite well in a collected TPB. I thought the book had a decent look throughout but it wasn’t anything spectacular. The visuals of this book have definitely been on the decline as we’ve moved from Finch to Booth to Mahnke and now Derenick who, while doing an effect job, is basically mimicking Mahnke’s performance.

Spoiler
The expression s on some characters, like Wonder Woman, could’ve been better. There’s a scene in which Wonder Woman leaps out and exclaims “What are you doing here? This is no place for you” as she tries to protect Stargirl, but her face is just blank. She’s not even looking at Stargirl and Stargirl’s eyeline doesn’t match up with Wonder Woman either.
This book needs an artist who will stick around for more than 3 issues and give it a distinct look, but judging by the solicitations it looks like we’ll be seeing multiple fill-in artists for at least the next three months.

Recommended If…

  • “Only a Dream” is one of your favorite Justice League: The Animated Series episodes and you want something similar
  • Stargirl is one of your favorite members of the JLA
  • More Martian Manhunter is never a bad thing
  • You enjoyed the last issue but are definitely ready to leave the prison

Overall

It feels a lot like a retread of the last issue, but with much more Stargirl and some actual plot progression slipped in near the end. It’s an okay read, but I think that issues #8 and #9 could’ve been condensed into one killer issue rather than 2 “okay” ones.

SCORE: 6/10